A People With No Word For Love

by Sheri Schofield

Nine hours south of El Paso, Texas is a canyon deeper and larger than our Grand Canyon. It is called the Copper Canyon. Tourists take train rides around it and marvel at the native runners who race the trains. They are the Tarahumara, the world’s greatest long-distance runners.

Twelve years ago, I traveled south to work among them for a few days. The man who took us there, Tomas Bencomo, was a pastor in Juarez, Mexico. One day the government of Mexico had sent out a plea to the people: “Please help the native tribes, or they will become extinct within ten years.”

Tomas had driven down to the canyon. He looked out over the vast gorge three thousand feet below and wondered, “If my son were lost down there in those gorges, would I not do everything I could to find him? I would do anything, search through every branch of the canyon, for as long as it took! The Tarahumara are lost from God. He loves them and is searching for them. I will do all that I can to find them and bring them to God.”

At first, he took a team from his church to the canyon, plus some mules. They loaded the mules with food and began the dangerous trip into the canyon, walking on eyebrow trails down the sheer cliffs. One mule didn’t make it. He fell into the depths.

After several hours, the team reached the bottom of the canyon. Tomas called to the Tarahumara, who were in hiding. But none came out to meet him. So the team unloaded the mules and left the food before heading back up the dangerous cliffs.

Gradually, the Tarahumara came to trust Tomas. They took the food back to the caves in which they lived. They didn’t trust outsiders, for they had been tricked before. But as time passed, they learned to trust Tomas and his teams.

On one trip, Tomas saw the skeleton of a child alongside the trail. When he reached the bottom of the canyon, he mentioned it to a native man, who knew some Spanish. The man shook his head and said, “The mountains are covered with the bones of children.”

Each year, there was a starving time among the Tarahumara when the food ran low. The parents had to choose which children to feed. The others died. They had no other option. There wasn’t enough food. The mortality rate among the children was 50%.

There was no word in their language for “love.” But they felt the pain of loss in what they called the Valley of Death.

With so many orphaned, starving and abandoned children in the canyon, Tomas decided to build a boarding school for them. Canadian and American churches helped, hauling the materials down those dangerous cliffs on their backs and on mules. Once the school was built, Tomas asked for volunteers to oversee the work there.

A twenty-two year old woman named Sandra went into the canyon to serve. Tomas supplied food, and Sandra and a native helper prepared it. They had thirty-six children the first year. They have over a hundred children now, and the Mexican government sends teachers.

Many of the Tarahumara children are named “Tomas” or “Sandra,” for the two leaders who have become precious to the natives. Those two have made it possible for the Tarahumara to survive during the starving times without losing their children. They have demonstrated God’s love. The gospel has swept through the canyon, transforming lives because of that love.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. John 4:10-11 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

FREE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM! Author/Children’s Bible teacher, Sheri Schofield, offers a free series of video lessons about Jesus and His salvation—for children ages 4 and up. It is available at her website www.sherischofield.com. In this video series, Walk-The-Talk Island, Sheri presents her award-winning book The Prince and the Plan, in 24 video lessons for your children, grandchildren and any others with whom you wish to share. In addition, Campfire provides devotions for children.

Join the Conversation: Have you ever won someone over to Jesus with love?


8 thoughts on “A People With No Word For Love

  1. What could have been a legacy of heartbreak became a testimony of true love! Thanks for sharing this, Sheri.


    1. Hi Terri. Thank you for all your supportive comments! I appreciate you. The story of the Tarahumara in the Copper Canyon is even more dramatic than what I was able to share. God has done an amazing work through the Mexican Christians in reaching these poor people for Jesus.


    1. There is so much more to this story! But I was only able to share a part of it. Sandra and Tomas have done an amazing work among the Tarahumara. Thanks for your encouragement, Christina.


  2. I’m glad it inspired you! The ministry Tomas and Sandra are doing among the Tarahumara is all done by faith. There are some amazing stories of how God provided when there was no money to buy food for the children, and how He delivered many from the lifestyle in the canyon. But I can only share part of it.


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